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Thursday Euro-file: Benito wins in Portugal; Gustov takes Regio lead

Spanish rider Alberto Benito won Thursday's second stage of the Volta a Portugal and jumped into the overall lead. Benito relegated Spanish sprinter Angelo Edo (Milaneza-MSS) into second place in the 148.5km stage from Loule to Beja in the scorching south of Portugal. Benito finished second in Wednesday's opening stages and used time bonuses to jump into the overall lead. Another Kelme rider abandoned, Jesus Manzano, leaving the team with just two from its original eight members. Five Kelme riders quit Wednesday with stomach problems. The 65th Volta continues Friday with the 150.9km third

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By Andrew Hood

Spanish rider Alberto Benito won Thursday’s second stage of the Volta a Portugal and jumped into the overall lead. Benito relegated Spanish sprinter Angelo Edo (Milaneza-MSS) into second place in the 148.5km stage from Loule to Beja in the scorching south of Portugal.

Benito finished second in Wednesday’s opening stages and used time bonuses to jump into the overall lead. Another Kelme rider abandoned, Jesus Manzano, leaving the team with just two from its original eight members. Five Kelme riders quit Wednesday with stomach problems.

The 65th Volta continues Friday with the 150.9km third stage from Campo Maior to Castelo Branco.

65th Volta a Portugal, Stage 2, Loule to Beja, 148.5km
1. Alberto Benito (Sp), Antarte-Rota Moveis 3 hours, 29 minutes, 8 seconds
2. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza-MSS
3. David Garcia (Sp), Cantanhede
4. Nuno Marta (Por), Barbot
5. Pedro Costa (Por), Cantanhede — all same time

Overall standings after two stages
1. Alberto Benito (Sp), Antarte 8 hours, 5 minutes 52 seconds
2. Angel Edo (Sp). Milaneza-MSS +0:06
3. Candido Barbosa (Por), L.A. Pecol — same time
4. Carlos Golbano (Sp), Paternina-Costa de Almeria +0:13
5. Luis Sarreira (Por), Cantanhede — st

Gustov takes Regio lead
Ukraine racer Vlodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo) took the overall lead of the five-day Regio Tour in Germany in Thursday’s split stage. German Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) won the afternoon’s 14.4km time trial but Gustov was second and bounced into the overall lead. Scholz is now second overall.

In the morning road stage, Italian Marco Zanotti (Fassa Bortolo) edged German sprinter Danilo Hondo (Telekom) to claim the 71.6km stage into Mullheim. American Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), appearing in his first race since crashing out of the Tour de France, finished 93rd at 33 seconds back.

Regio Tour, Stage 2a, Liel to Mullheim, 71.6km
1. Marco Zanotti (I), Fassa Bortolo 1 hour, 36, minutes, 42 seconds
2. Danilo Hondo (G), Telekom
3. Giosué Bonomi (I), Saeco
4. Steffen Radochla (G), Bianchi
5. Robert Förster (G), Gerolsteiner — all same time
North Americans
43. Guido Trenti (USA), Fassa Bortolo +0:03
93. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank +0:33

ONCE, Banesto approach Spanish millionaire
Staff from soon-to-be folding Spanish teams ONCE and Banesto have both approached Spanish millionaire Amancio Ortega about taking over their respective team sponsorships, according to the Spanish daily La Opinión.

Ortega owns Spain’s largest chain of clothing stores under such names as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear and Berskha. His empire stretches throughout Europe, Latin America and more recently into the United States and earns an estimated $550 million a year.

ONCE’s Manolo Saiz and Banesto’s José Miguel Echavarri both refused to publicly comment on the story. Both teams are desperate to find Spanish sponsors to step in, but Spain is short of high-profile companies looking to invest upwards of $7 million to sponsor a professional bicycle team.

Transfer news: Nazons, Jaksche sign
French sprinter Jean-Patrick Nazon, fresh off his one-day reign in the yellow jersey and final-stage victory in the Tour de France, has signed a two-year deal with Ag2r-Prevoyance while German rising star Jorg Jaksche has penned a deal with Gerolsteiner.

Nazon will bolster Ag2r’s roster in the sprints, where the team relies on veteran Jaan Kirsipuu. He’ll also share team leadership duties with Laurent Brochard. His older brother, Damien, has switched teams, going from Brioches-la-Boulangère to Crédit Agricole.

The 27-year-old Jaksche wasted no time once he heard ONCE was pulling the plug and has signed a deal to join the German team Gerolsteiner. Jaksche finished a solid 17th overall in the Tour and was the wish list of several teams.

Pechrromán likely to march
Spanish sensation Jose Antonio Pecharromán isn’t expected to sign with a Spanish team following the news that ONCE and Banesto are both closing shop at the end of the season.

Pecharromán, currently on the modest Paternina-Costa Almeria team, created a stir after winning Bicicleta Vasco and the Tour of Catalunya within four weeks earlier this season. Pecharromán, 25, has already received offers from Quick Step and Rabobank.

“One of them has already responded and I am waiting for the other before deciding,” Pecharromán told the Spanish daily AS. “Before I do anything I want to talk to Marcos Eguizábal (owner of Paternina) to see if they can make me an offer that’s equal in terms of money and sporting elements that I’ve been offered. In case they can equal the offer, I’d prefer to stay here.”

That, however, seems unlikely, as Paternina’s entire team budget is little more than $1 million while both Rabobank and Quick Step each have at least $7 million in their respective team budgets.